4 Reasons Why The Celtics Should Run It Back In 2021

Getty Images 2019-20 Celtics

Are the Boston Celtics the Los Angeles Clippers of the Eastern Conference?

No, not really.

Things in L.A. were a bit more complicated in contrast to Boston, both teams ran into its own unique challenges, respectively, however, there is one common misconception about the Celtics’ forgone trajectory, unlike the Clippers, for next season: drastic changes need to be made. Los Angeles wasted little-to-no time to part ways with Doc Rivers, while Celtics fans await the off-season steam to pick up in Boston.

Whether that means trading Marcus Smart or Gordon Hayward, trading away one of the Celtics’ core members is a gamble in it of itself – that’s drastic – plus, the chance of Boston winning a trade without sacrificing long-term cap space is highly unlikely, but this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Here are four reasons why the Celtics should return with the same roster (mostly) intact and run it back in 2021.

1. Jaylen Brown’s Ascension

It’s been four years since Jaylen Brown went from a raw, athletic wing with potential to a 20-point scorer on a title-contending team. Brown’s ascension from year three to year four in 2019-20 – when Jaylen went from averaging 13 points to averaging 20, from 10.7 attempts per game to 15.6; from role player to All-Star snub – helped the Celtics in a big way.

Brown’s rise was nearly unheralded but was appropriately compensated with a timely contract-extension. Yet, there’s still one more notch for the four-year forward to conquer, and it’s important for the Celtics’ championship hopes.

All-Star Kemba Walker’s contribution to the offense is going to have to take a step back in lieu of what we saw this past season. The two averaged nearly the same amount of attempts per game (15.9), with Walker having a slight edge, last season but with Brown still trending upward, 2021 is the best time to expedite his growth to its full extent, under Jayson Tatum, who sits atop of Brad Stevens’ offensive hierarchy.

Speaking of Tatum, he’s also still growing. At his newfound superstar status, Tatum has no issue taking the mantle but the two need to take the lead of the Celtics as a cohesive unit. They must evolve into, to keep the Clippers comparison going, the Kawhi Leonard & Paul George of the East, so to speak.

Walker will continue to excel as the team’s floor general and a constant scoring threat. Also, expect Stevens to go into preservation mode with his All-Star point guard.

Appearing in less than 58 games this season, load management will most likely come into play, a bit, with Walker, while Boston keeps its eyes set on the bigger picture – a deep playoff run.

2. Injuries Derailed The 2019-20 Boston Celtics

If you’re a Celtics fan, you already know that the ‘What If?’ game is exhausting and one you’ve played repeatedly for, at least, three consecutive years. “What if Isaiah didn’t get hurt in 2017?” Or, “what if Kyrie Irving & Gordon Hayward were healthy in 2018!?” and then, of course, the “what if Kyrie wasn’t Kyrie?”

All right, the last one wasn’t health-related, but you know where I’m getting at. It happened, again. The injury bug stung the Celtics at the worst time, not even a three-month layover due to a global pandemic could alter Boston’s seemingly inevitable fate, this time around.

However, this time, fans may have a valid point. Maybe seeing Hayward and Walker at full-strength changes the outcome of the Eastern Conference Finals, and the Celtics squeeze through.

And, looking ahead, maybe this is the kind of adversity this group needs to overcome along with an unhealthy core in 2021. This roster – Stevens’ most talented Celtics team – may be top-heavy, where the vast majority of the talent lies, including the only NBA team this year equipped with at least three 20-point scorers but it can handle its own against any opposing team’s best one-through-six guys.

There aren’t a whole lot of teams in the league that can say the same, and intact, this core’s six are all under contract for one more season.

3. The Luxury Tax

When Hayward makes it official and opts-in to his $34.2 million player option, the likelihood that the Celtics deal him should increase but it doesn’t improve his trade value, at least, for now. After averaging 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.1 assists in the regular season, Hayward’s sprained ankle in the first game of the playoffs diminished his value in the open market.

He’s going to have to prove he’s still capable of those averages in 2021, which puts the Celtics in a tough spot if they try to trade him. Also, teams looking to make a move for Hayward are, most likely, looking to make a salary dump, including trading players with multiple years tacked onto their current deal – that’s something Boston can’t afford right now.

The Celtics are projected to hit the luxury tax, and with Tatum entering the final season of his rookie contract, one year away from a significant pay raise, the Celtics don’t have much salary cap to play with. Without a clear move in sight, outside a potential free-agent signing under the veterans’ minimum, the Celtics could end up, for the most part, running things back, by default.

4. A Promising Young Talent

For some NBA players, it’s difficult to pinpoint when their prime years will take over and cast a pale glimmer of promise into a title-contending team. This kind of surprise comes from a mid-to-late first-round pick, who’s locked into a secondary role that can change the outlook of a season, and if you’re the Celtics, you’re hoping to cash, at least, one into a reliable everyday player.

Romeo Langford’s incomplete season, one that was plagued by a slew of injuries, unfortunately, doesn’t give us a clear timeline of his growth potential. Celtics head coach Brad Stevens once said “he is going to be an NBA player for a long, long time” of Grant Williams, the soon-to-be second-year big man.

Williams is projected to have an increased role next season and offers the kind of upside on both ends of the floor that should catapult Stevens’ second unit towards the next level.

Defensively, Williams’ improvement relies on his footwork. It was a common theme throughout his rookie campaign and didn’t go unnoticed in the postseason when his personal fouls would stack up whenever he was allotted 10-plus minutes, however, playing meaningful minutes towards the end of playoff games means something.

Stevens believes in Grant and the Celtics need more toughness in the frontcourt; Williams is going to need to hit the gym over the winter to work on his build – but, I say, in 2021, he improves dramatically in both areas. And, expect his outside touch – one that spiked from 25% in the regular season to 58.8% in the playoffs – to do the same.

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